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Healthy property industry is vital

Nia Williams

October 15, 2010

In a submission to the Government ahead of next week’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) the property industry has urged ministers to use the CSR to:

  • Give incentives for development
  • Use planning and public sector assets to drive economic growth
  • Streamline sustainability policy
  • Re-instate empty property rate relief

The BPF said plans for a new homes bonus, which matches the council tax raised on each new house for six years, must be extended to commercial schemes, and for government to further localise business rates.

Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: “The Government needs to act quickly to provide a stimulus for commercial development and also to allow local authorities greater control over general rating. This would provide a much stronger motivation for local authorities to back new development that generates economic activity and creates new jobs.”

The federation also endorsed greater sharing of skills between local authorities – including the merging of planning departments. Highlighting the need for reform of England’s under-resourced and poorly performing planning system, the BPF said that while cuts will be necessary, councils should aim to do “more with less”.

The BPF also urged better training in development economics for planners, and for councils to make more use of developer resources, such as allowing developers to fund extra planning officers and so allow them to process applications more quickly.

Peace said: “If we are to make the Big Society work it’s important we see planning applications processed quickly and a further increase in the pool receiving training in this area. Planners and allied professionals need to have a good grasp of the issues that affect development viability locally.”

The BPF endorsed the ‘Total Place’ agenda, which seeks to join up all funding for a particular area and create shared facilities for public sector bodies, and to make better use of public sector powers and assets to “de-risk” complex regeneration schemes.

The BPF submission also notes that a plethora of sustainability initiatives – led by five different government departments – have caused widespread confusion within the property industry and must be streamlined if major players in the real estate industry are to embrace the sustainability agenda.

Liz Peace said: “This would allow the industry to get on with its core task of creating good-quality, economically viable places and allow for efficiencies in government as well.”

The industry also kept up pressure on its empty rates campaign, the removal of which has brought a halt to any form of speculative development.

Liz Peace said: “We realise that loss of tax revenue appear on the surface to be unpalatable, but we would contend that the enhanced economic activity that would result would compensate for a substantial part of the lost revenue.”

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